How to Propose Boring Work

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  1. You have Task Bumblebee that's absolutely essential to your company.
  2. Only Mike really has the skills to handle Task Bumblebee.
  3. The work is mundane, boring, and more @^^% boring.

What should you do?

  • Option A: Ask him nicely.
  • Option B: Propose two different solutions.

Say You Choose Option A

An hour into the work, Mike goes:

  1. "This work is so boring!"
  2. "What the EFF?!"
  3. He gives you the middle finger.

Mike, starting to feel dissuaded from the work's drabness, sees his inspiration draining to kick big boo-tay.

  1. His productivity plummets.
  2. You don't know if he'll be able to accomplish the project.
  3. You continue giving him water trying to maintain his sanity.

You run off crying.

Now, let's say you picked the other option:

Say You Choose Option B...

You offer up two different solutions -- but not just any two solutions.

You offer Mike:

  • Task Y: (something horrifically, exponentially disgusting -- far worse than doing Task Bumblebee)
  • Task Z: Task Bumblebee

What Mike's thinks:

  • "Task Y would make me want to shoot myself in the buttocks; but, Task Z magically saves my day."


  1. Mike chooses Task Z (Bumblebee).
  2. He sees Task Bumblebee in a much brighter light because he could've done far, far worse.
  3. He maintains his morale to get Task Bumblebee finished.

Win for all.

Behavioral economists/psychologists call that the contrasting principle.

The Power of The Contrasting Principle

It goes like this:

  1. We don't define our decisions/thinking in absolute terms.
  2. Instead, we define them in relative terms.

For instance:

  1. The hottest person you saw yesterday is totally hot, OH YEAH!
  2. But, compared to Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt, yesterday's hot person ain't no thang-but-a-chicken-wing-on-a-string.

That is:

  1. You compared yesterday's hot person to everybody else you saw that day -- and relatively, s/he was "OH SO HOT"-est of 'em all.
  2. "But, s/he's ain't so hot when compared to Brangelina! OH NO!" you tell yourself.
  3. So, you don't jump for joy like you did yesterday.

When you reframe undesirable-but-essential work, you make the work much more desirable, much less de-motivating -- and plenty more doable.


  1. You get a more motivated Mike.
  2. You amplify his chances of getting essential work done with style.

Hooray for all.

Boring-er the mofosoko.

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Posted on May 12

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